Gigabyte GA-8VT880 Ultra - Retail VIA Pentium 4 Dual Channel

We have the Intel Prescott supported Gigabyte GA-8VT880 Ultra motherboard under the spotlight today. It is based on VIA's PT880 Dual Channel chipset for the Intel Pentium 4 line of processors. We compare it against Intel's Canterwood chipset.
| Apr 19, 2004 at 11:00 pm CDT
Rating: 75%Manufacturer: Gigabyte

Gigabyte GA-8VT880 Ultra - Introduction

IntroductionDual Channel DDR memory for the Pentium 4, once only dream is now a full blown reality. The technology, first pioneered and introduced by nVidia as revolutionary desktop requirement has fully graduated and been beefed up since then.Now with 128bit interface and up to and beyond DDR-400 speeds, it's no wonder everyone wanted a piece of the action. With Dual DDR not benefiting AMD Athlon XP anywhere near as much as the Intel Pentium 4, it has taken VIA some time to adopt the Dual Channel standard, in fact, VIA has pushed single channel technology with its so-called Faststream64 technology.The PT880, which we tested earlier in our Dual Channel DDR chipset roundup for the Pentium 4, we saw VIA put in a great effort for its first Dual Channel chipset. Today we take a look at Gigabyte's adoption of this chipset, the 8VT880 Ultra.

Gigabyte GA-8VT880 Ultra - Specifications

Specifications of the 8VT880 UltraCPUSupports Intel Pentium 4 1.4GHz ~ 2GHz mPGA 478 CPU WillametteSupports Intel Pentium 4 2.0GHz ~ 2.8GHz mPGA 478 Northwood (400FSB)Supports Intel Pentium 4 2.2GHz ~ 3.06GHz mPGA 478 Northwood (533FSB)Supports Intel Pentium 4 2.4CGHz ~ 3.2CGhz mPGA 478 Northwood (800FSB)Supports Intel Pentium 4 2.8EGhz ~ 3.4Ghz mPGA 478 Prescott (800FSB)Supports Intel Celeron 1.7GHz ~ 2.9Ghz mPGA 478 (400FSB)ChipsetVIA PT880 With HTPT880 NorthbridgeVT8237 SouthbridgeVIA V-Link @ 533MB/sBus Frequency100/133/200MHz Internal400/533/800MHz ExternalNetburst Micro ArchitectureExpansion Slots1 AGP 4x5 PCIExpansion Ports1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port8 USB 2.0 Ports (4 rear accessible, 4 via expansion bracket)2 Firewire Ports (via expansion bracket)2 Serial Ports 1 Parallel Port3 Stereo Audio Ports 1 Game Port (via expansion bracket)Special FeaturesBIOS overclocking control of FSB, voltages.Onboard Realtek Gigabit NetworkingFirewireITE GigaRAID IDE RAID

Gigabyte GA-8VT880 Ultra - Features

Features of the 8VT880 Ultra- Package and Contents
Gigabyte's packaging for its motherboards is ever changing in colour schemes and designs. Why? Simply so you won't mistake their motherboards in the shops for other companies or the different models they have, after all, Gigabyte is one of the most diverse motherboard manufacturers with boards based on just about every chipset for budget and hardcore users.The package layout for its Ultra series is a very generous one with a user manual, IDE RAID users manual, driver CD, FDD for IDE RAID installation for Windows XP install, Internal to External Serial ATA adapter, 4 pin molex to SATA HDD power converter as all as your IDE and SATA data cables.- Motherboard and Layout
The motherboard itself is a typical design from Gigabyte, with its highs and lows. For the expansion side of things you have your now typical AGP slot supporting 1.5v or 0.8v cards so older 3.3v cards are no longer universally supported. Five PCI slots are also included for adding external sound solutions, Firewire, SATA RAID cards and various other PCI devices you many have or wish to purchase.As for component layout, once again, Gigabyte has a hit and miss affair. On the good side, the 20 pin power connector, Southbridge IDE ports and FDD ports are located behind the DIMM slots on the far right, keeping them away from the main components and allowing good air flow through the PCI and AGP slots. On the bad side, the 4 pin power connector is squeezed between the CPU retention base and the Northbridge heatsink. This makes the 4 pin cables drape extremely close to the CPU heatsink and can get in the way when changing CPU's.Gigabyte has though once again done a great job with user friendly setups. The two DDR channels are colour coded for matching up the identical DIMMs for Dual Channel mode as well as the front panel LED and power/reset switches, which Gigabyte is now colour coding and putting + signs in the positive signal wires - no more plugging in those LED's to find out you have them around the wrong way.- Chipsets powering the show
The chipset in question is the VIA PT880 which in our last encounter proved to be a great up and comer. Not only does it support Dual Channel DDR-400 as well as AGP8x, but its performance and price were right on the money for a budget/mainstream product. Gigabyte uses an active heatsink and fan combo to cool the PT880. The chipset doesn't get very hot under normal operation, when overclocking the memory and AGP, this baby does tend to warm up - the active solution is a great addition.The VT8237 Southbridge, VIA's latest and greatest has been added to complement the design. With this Southbridge, support for two SATA and four PATA drives are provided as well as either 5.1 or 7.1 audio, depending on what audio link is used. 10/100 Ethernet as all as an 8 port USB2.0 controller are all standard on the VT8237 Southbridge.
Now I don't know about you but all the hype on Serial ATA and its new native RAID functions of Intel, VIA and SiS Southbridge's does gets me a bit steamed up when ultimate motherboards are being produces without an IDE RAID chip. Only a handful of us have SATA RAID, but quite a few of us I know have IDE RAID arrays. If you want a new motherboard, most of the time it means either ditching the IDE RAID setup and getting two SATA drives for the RAID or going and getting two of the IDE to SATA converters, which can sometimes be a pain and expensive to buy. Gigabyte has included its ITE GigaRAID IDE RAID controller supporting RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and JBOD setups - perfect for the IDE RAID users we just talked about.

Gigabyte GA-8VT880 Ultra - Features Continued

Features of the 8VT880 Ultra Continued- Chipsets powering the show ContinuedFirewire, once only the dream of PC enthusiasts is now a full blown epidemic. Virtually every hardcore branded motherboard has either a VIA VT6306 or Texas Instruments Firewire controller chip onboard. The 8VT880 uses the popular VIA VT6306 chip providing a total of three Firewire ports which is more than enough for the 1394 standard.
With Intel's new CSA being dubbed the Ethernet of choice, Gigabit Ethernet has now become more popular, and set to take the place of the aging 10/100 standard introduced back in the early 1990's. Intel is thus the only company to provide a dedicated Gigabit Ethernet protocol, and with PCI Express somewhat of a future expectation PCI solutions are the only options.Editor Note - nVidia has only just introduced native Gigabit networking into its nForce3 250 Pro chip for the AMD Athlon 64 processor.Gigabyte has in the past used Realtek for its PCI Ethernet systems; this is no different with the 8VT880. The Realtek RTL8110S-32 PCI Gigabit Ethernet controller is included to give a base line Gigabit Ethernet system. However, you don't want to use this on 1000mbps along with the RAID controller, you will experience slow downs in the Ethernet and RAID traffic as you flood the PCI bus.
- Intel Prescott readyPrescott is the latest processor core from Intel, and as you should all know by now, Prescott sucks more juice than its Northwood brother, in fact, without proper cooling on some 3-phase power motherboards you could be looking at the regulators taking a very hefty nose-dive. The 8VT880 uses a rather unique heatsink on the Mofettes to give the motherboard Prescott Ready approval.- OverclockingWhen it comes to overclocking, the Gigabyte experience has been a hit and miss affair as well. Either you get the best motherboard for your money or you regret parting with your hard earned money. This motherboard is actually the first of the happy mediums, for the following reasons.Using the Award 6 BIOS, the overclocking settings are located under the Frequency/Voltage Control menu. Here you can adjust FSB, DRAM ratio, DRAM voltage, AGP voltage and CPU voltage.- FSB selections are from 100MHz up to 300MHz in 1MHz increments - good for Intel Prescott overclocking.- DRAM ratios are DDR-266, 333 and 400. This sets the dividers for your DRAM no matter what FSB you run. Keep your FSB and DRAM always synced for best results. - DRAM voltage goes from 2.5v up to 2.8v in 0.1V increments. 2.9 or 3.0 would have allowed for better results with RAM like OCZ but 2.8 will have to do.- CPU voltage, for Prescott 1.7v is beyond what you will need, for Northwood, 1.85v is much more preferable. It would be nice to see Gigabyte add this in the future. - As for AGP voltages with CPU/AGP/PCI ratio locks in place you won't really need this but selections are from 1.5v up to 1.7v in 0.1v increments.In all we have a great motherboard for Intel Prescott, for Northwood core Pentium 4 processors there are much better products around to choose.

Gigabyte GA-8VT880 Ultra - Benchmarks - Test System Setup and SiSoft Sandra 2004 SP1

Test System SetupProcessor: Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz (800MHz FSB) (Supplied by Spectrum Communications)Memory: 2x 256MB OCZ DDR-533 (Supplied by OCZ)Hard Disk: Western Digital 7200 RPM PATA (Supplied by Plus Corporation)Graphics Card: Gigabyte GeForce FX 5950 Ultra (Supplied by Gigabyte)Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP1Drivers: nVidia nVidia Forceware 56.64SiSoft Sandra 2004 SP1SiSoft Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) 2004 SP1 is a synthetic windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
The Gigabyte PT880 just falls short of its I875P sibling in the memory performance. Once the king of memory performance, VIA has fallen behind the pack somewhat.

Gigabyte GA-8VT880 Ultra - Benchmarks - PCMark04

PCMark04PCMark04 is a new multipurpose benchmark, suited for benchmarking all kinds of PCs, from laptops to workstations, as well as across multiple Windows operating systems. This easy-to-use benchmark makes professional strength benchmarking software available even to novice users. PCMark04 consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs.
On memory performance, again the PT880 falls slightly short. On the HDD front, VIA has put a bit more work into its SATA system, with a 533MB/s Southbridge link over the aging Intel 266MB/s.

Gigabyte GA-8VT880 Ultra - Benchmarks - 3DMark03

3DMark033DMark03 is the latest instalment in the popular 3DMark series. By combining DirectX 9 support with completely new graphics (including the GeForce FX and ATI Radeon 9800), it continues to provide benchmark results that empower you to make informed hardware assessments.Please Note: Due to recent events with the 3DMark03 series, we are adding results purely for those who are still in favor of 3DMark03. These results should not be taken too seriously and are only added for interest sakes.
Here both motherboard aren't that far apart. Seems that the failings of each levels them out.

Gigabyte GA-8VT880 Ultra - Benchmarks - Aquamark3

Aquamark3Aquamark3 is the latest instalment of the Aquamark benchmark suite. This new benchmark is much more powerful and demands much more from both the system and the graphics card. If there is any weakness in the system or 3D components, Aquamark3 will find them.
Here the CPU and memory play a more important part than the HDD access, the I875P wins again.

Gigabyte GA-8VT880 Ultra - Benchmarks - Halo PC

Halo PC - Combat EvolvedHalo PC is new to us at TweakTown. Though we have used it in a couple of benchmarks in the past, it has now found a permanent place in our Benchmark Suite. This is simply due to its support for the latest DirectX 9 API's to put some more stress on the system to determine the best of the best.
Here again the I875P is slightly more optimised when the very heavy benchmark of Halo is used.

Gigabyte GA-8VT880 Ultra - Benchmarks - Jedi Knight II

Jedi Knight IIJedi Knight II, Jedi Outcast is an OpenGL game that many have been waiting for. It has much improved graphics over its predecessor. It fully supports advanced shaders, as well as very high texture resolutions and effects. There is one demo included in the multi-player section that is good for benchmarking use.
Here both even out.

Gigabyte GA-8VT880 Ultra - Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 2003

Unreal Tournament 2003Unreal Tournament 2003 continues the success that Unreal Tournament generated as an online game and benchmark. UT2003 pulls all of its weight on to the 3D and Memory subsystems, pushing graphics reality to the maximum is its game, and you need some serious power to gain playable scores with this game.
The results speak for themselves.

Gigabyte GA-8VT880 Ultra - Conclusion

ConclusionGigabyte is definitely one for trying new things. For us it can be a way to get our hands on either one of the hard to find SiS chipsets or the new VIA PT880, but sometimes there is a cost - either not enough overclocking, lacking certain features or overall no BIOS updates to rectify problems since so much is being taken on.The GA-8VT880 Ultra is a motherboard that has some potential; however, just a few things set it back. Firstly the placement of the 4 pin power connector. We have given Gigabyte some head way when it comes to this problem, but it doesn't seem to be something that is coming to the attention of the R&D department. For low cost motherboards it is fine but for avid overclocking motherboards, times are changing and something needs to be done.Overclocking options while good could be improved. After all, EPoX, a company who once had no overclocking motherboards have pulled themselves to one of the top overclocking manufacturers, and with some careful work, Gigabyte could as well.On the good side, we have a reasonable overclocking set, Gigabit Ethernet, Firewire and PATA and SATA RAID which are both a great bonus especially for IDE RAID users who are still in existence.The Gigabyte GA-8VT880 Ultra has proven to be a motherboard worthy of a mid-class system, but for hardcore overclocking, look elsewhere.- ProsReasonable overclocking setRelatively good performanceGigabit EthernetIDE RAIDFirewire- ConsOverclocking could be improvedPlacement of 4 pin power connector needs rethinkingRating - 7.5 out of 10

Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:26 pm CDT

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